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Randy Appleton
Randy Appleton
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Feds’ List of Train, Truck and Plane Safety Wishes Is Long But Achievable

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The National Transportation Safety Board on January 13, 2015, introduced its newest Most Wanted list of improvements by stating, “Rail tank cars that carry crude oil, ethanol and other hazardous materials across the country must do it more safely.” Other priorities for the federal agency that enforces regulations on interstate commercial trucking, freight and passenger rail, private aviation and many types of shipping include limiting distractions for truckers and engineers, reducing problems related to drunk and drugged driving, and speeding up the adoption of remote and automatic train braking technologies.


Tanker cars less prone to puncturing, leaking and exploding top NTSB’s wish list for U.S. transportation safety improvements during 2015.

A section of the NTSB website outlines the need to pursue each of the following goals, along with progress and future steps toward each:

  • Implement positive train control (PTC) in 2015
  • Improve rail tank car safety
  • Require medical fitness for duty
  • Strengthen commercial trucking safety
  • Disconnect from deadly distractions
  • End substance impairment in transportation
  • Enhance helicopter safety
  • Make mass transit safer
  • Prevent loss of control in flight in general aviation
  • Strengthen procedural compliance

My Carolina personal injury and wrongful death attorney colleagues and I have called for action on each of these priorities repeatedly, particularly PTC and more crash-resistant tanker cars. Renewed attention to what NTSB calls “medical fitness” and “procedural compliance” also stand out among the other necessities. Falling into both those categories are the long-debated and frequently amended hours of service for long-haul truckers. Lack of sleep, and the attendant risk of falling asleep behind the wheel, creates risks for deadly and disabling tractor-trailer crashes like the one that left Tracy Morgan with a traumatic brain injury.

Incremental progress on each of the transportation safety likely represents the best outcome, but each gain will equal fewer injuries and deaths. With rules already in place for virtually all of the programs and updates NTSB describes as most wanted, all that remains is for companies from railroads to airlines and cruise operators to live up to their legal obligations.